Thousands of Minnesota Nurses Launch 3-Day Strike Over Pay

Thousands of nurses in Minnesota launched a three-day strike, making it the largest protest in American history involving private sector nurses. 

The nurses are pressing for salary increases they say will help improve patient care by resolving understaffing stresses that have worsened in the coronavirus pandemic.

About 15,000 nurses from seven healthcare systems in Minnesota walked out on their jobs across several hospitals to protest understaffing and work conditions. It’s reportedly the largest protest in history involving private-sector nurses according to the union. 

They claim some units operate without a lead nurse on duty. And that inexperienced nurses are saddled with tasks more senior figures usually handle. 

The protest is expected to last three days. Union spokesman Sam Fettig said the nurses chose a three-day strike, rather than an open-ended walkout, out of concern for patients.

The nurses are asking to have a say in staffing plans and pay bumps over 30 percent. The president of the Minnesota Nurses Association says meeting their wage demands will help resolve retention problems. 

But hospitals say they can’t afford the wage demands and say the nurses have refused to meet at the mediating table. The hospitals have offered a 10-12 percent wage increase over three years.

Nurses told harrowing stories from the picket lines. 

Jean Ross, co-president of National Nurses United, billed as the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the U.S., said more nurses across the country are pushing back and that most job actions revolve around the same core issues — staffing and pay.

“The pandemic did so many things in pointing out, clarifying, and shining a light on what life is like in the hospitals and what nurses are expected to do, which is a lot with very little,” Ross said. “We have to have a bottom line where you just can’t shove any more patients onto that nurse.”

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